Spring.  In Chicago.  Sigh.

Some people say we don’t really have spring here.  Just a bitter arm-wresting match between winter and summer.  On days like last Sunday, when it reached 85, summer seems just about to push winter’s fist into the table.  Today, April 18th mind you, with actual accumulating snow in the morning and an obnoxious wind throughout the day, you know that winter has the upper hand once again and you put the ice scraper away too soon.

But we do “spring” things anyway.  We go to Cubs and Sox games and pretend it’s fun.  We sit on soccer sidelines in down coats and wonder why we have to go to all the games when our parents never did and we turned out just fine.  And we make spring food, like pasta primavera.

This is from the latest issue (May/June 2011) of Cook’s Illustrated and true to Cook’s idiosyncratic style, it’s unorthodox and brilliant.

I always say that a Cooks’ recipe by law has to include some completely off the wall instruction like “turn around three times and slap your sister.”  This one asks to you saute uncooked, dry pasta in olive oil until it’s beginning to brown.  Even knowing that I was mimicking classic risotto technique didn’t make me feel any less foolish.  But I’ll be damned if it didn’t work; it gave the pasta a pleasant nuttiness and a surface that would better allow the sauce to cling to it.

The other interesting twist is that you use the trimmings from the leeks and asparagus to infuse canned vegetable broth with more depth and flavor.

All of this, plus a unique choice of herbs (mint and chives) made a really outstanding primavera.